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Team Dunn Takes Down Top 3 Seeds to Win Little League Rec Championship

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Coach Bobby Dunn had a good feeling about his team coming out of the Spring 2024 Little League draft in April.

Little did he know that good feeling would turn into a Championship trophy just two months later, the first in five years for Hopewell in rec league play against Central Valley and Ambridge. Beating the top three seeds to get there was just the cherry on top.

After and up and down season, Team Dunn finished the regular season with a record of 4-5, which earned them the No. 6 seed entering the playoffs. Their first opponent was Hopewell Coach BJ Rankin’s No. 3 seed team, which they had the daunting task of facing hard-throwing brothers Rhett and Liam Rakin.

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With a 3-1 lead after 2 innings, Team Dunn broke things open in the top of the third innings, scoring 5 runs off a double by Vinny Smetana and singles by Nico Yannessa and Connor Eiler, for an 8-1 lead. From there, Coach Bobby’s pitchers Wade Enders (3 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 1 ), Elliot Mancos (2 IP, 1 H, 2 ER, 1 K, 2 BB) and Vinny Smetana (1 IP, 1 H, 2 ER, 1 K) took over, allowing only 3 runs on 2 hits and 3 walks over the final four innings.

Team Dunn’s 9-4 victory sent them to the semi-final against CV.

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In the matchup against CV Coach JR Boulding’s No. 2 seed team, a squad they beat during the regular season handing Team Boulding their only loss.

Team Dunn struggled defensively (7 errors) but brought their bats (8 extra-base hits) to win 13-11 in 7 innings.

After Team Dunn scored 2 runs in the 1st (Smetana on a wild pitch and an Enders double), two straight Hopewell errors led to two CV runs and a 3-2 CV lead after one. Coach Bobby’s team took the lead back in the top of the 3rd off doubles from Smetana and Enders and a single by Yannessa. CV tied it up at 5 in the bottom of the 3rd, taking advantage of 2 walks that scored.

With CV up 6-5 after four innings, Team Dunn made a little 2-out magic in the top of the 5th inning- an error by CV on a Smetana hit to third base kept the inning going, followed by a Henry Dunn double, a Yannessa single, and a 2-run home run by Enders over the left field “monster” for a 9-6 Hopewell lead. In the bottom of the 5th, 2 more errors by Hopewell followed by some CV base hits led to a 9-9 tie after 5 innings.

That score held after six innings, which took the game to extra innings.

In the top of the 7th inning, 4 walks, a Smetana single and a Yannessa double brought in 4 runs for Hopewell. After that, Henry Dunn shut down CV, allowing 2 unearned runs on one hit and one walk. However, it was enough to send Hopewell to the championship game.

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In the championship game against CV Coach Chase McKim’s No. 1 seed team, Hopewell had their hands full with a team that had won 10 straight games coming into the final.

After two quick outs in the top of the 1st, Team Dunn made CV pay for two straight errors by getting each one around to score on wild pitches.

However, CV got those right back off a Braxton Loli 2-run home run, which tied the game a 2.

After both teams stranded runners in the second, Hopewell broke out the lumber in the top of the 3rd inning. A single by Colton Crawford and a 2-run double by Dunn were followed by a 3-run home run by Wade Enders, again over the left field “Monster”.

After that, Hopewell never looked back. Although Loli hit another solo home run off Enders, Mancos and Smetana shut down CV’s hitters over the final 3 innings, allowing only 2 runs on 3 hits and 2 walks. In what was still a close game with Team Dunn leading 7-5 in the bottom of the 5th inning, Nico Yannessa made the defensive play of the game, after a leadoff single by Grady McKim and 2 stolen bases that got him 70 feet from home. Yannessa leaped to snag a Mason Betters line drive down the third base line, landed on his knees and dove to third to complete the double play.

Then in the top of the 6th inning, Hopewell put the game away for good. August Ersek worked a walk, but was erased at second by a Hayden Kaninski fielders choice, narrowly avoiding a double play. After that, Hopewell made more 2-out magic. After 2 CV errors, one of which scored 3 runs, a Connor Eiler single gave Hopewell a 12-5 lead.

Final Score: Team Dunn 12, Team McKim 6.

Wade Enders led the team in hitting over the course of the playoffs (5 for 8, 2 2B, 2 HR, 9 RBI) with Vinny Smetana (5 for 8, 3 2B) and Nico Yannessa (5 for 8, 2B, 3 RBI) close behind.

Wade also started each game at pitcher and was stellar over the three games (8 IP, 9 H, 5 ER, 2 BB and 10 K’s). Relief pitchers Elliott Mancos (5 IP, 4 H, 5 ER, 5 K) and Vinny Smetana (5 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 3 K) also had strong outings to help Team Dunn keep each game close and hold leads in the end. In that 3-game championship run, Hopewell was only behind on the scoreboard 3 out of the 19 innings.

Coach Bobby’s team won this championship by taking what they learned this season and bringing all three phases of the game together at the right time: timely hitting/smart base-running, efficient pitching, and solid defense.  Congratulations to Team Dunn on a great season and a well-deserved Championship.

Hello Hopewell! While I am not originally a Hopewell native, it has been my home for over 12 years. My wife and I have three beautiful children that all play Hopewell sports including baseball and softball. My wife and I are both active in coaching our Children's teams. I am a member of the Hopewell Youth Baseball Board of Directors and you will probably see me out at the fields at least a few days a week. Most recently coaching my youngest sons TBALL team.

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